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Colon Cancer Treatment and Radiation Therapy

One of the most important parts of the digestive system is colon that helps the body in absorbing the nutrients; and in excreting the waste. It occupies the major portion in the large intestine and is very important for carrying out the digestive process. Colon cancer refers to the malignancy in colon cells. This ranks third amongst most common types of cancer. 

When the cells are infected by cancer they no longer follow the regular pattern of growth and death. Instead, the cell multiplies at an alarming rate and they do not die at all.  Though there is no known or identifiable cause known for this cancer, sedentary lifestyle and obesity are considered to be the culprits.  

Process of Treatment: 

Colon cancer treatment involves three methods - surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. However, the choice of the treatment depends on the stage of the colon cancer and the extent of the spread of the disease.  Surgery is usually done to remove the tumour from the colon. Nonetheless, it is not possible to remove the large tumour completely from the system. This explains the need of other treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy

Under the radiation therapy, a special machine is used having the power to emit gamma rays from the radium metals. When the rays are focussed on the cancer cells, they get destroyed and their proliferation also gets arrested. Many times such treatment is opted only in the later stages of the disease. Keeping several factors in mind, oncologists decide to give surgical treatment to a patient only in dire cases.  

Side Effects: 

The gamma or x rays are so powerful that they not only destroy the infected cells but also burn the healthy cells in the process. After taking radiation therapy, the most common side effect felt by patients is darkening of skin, resembling a sun tan. Patients also feel nausea, vomiting, fatigue and diarrhoea. Many patients also lose weight and experience lack of appetite. Though most of these subside over a period of time some may last longer. 

Pre-operative Colon Cancer Radiation 

There are several advantages of pre-operative radiation (radiation therapy directed before surgery) for colon cancer patients like – better chance of curing damage rendered by cancerous cells; downsizing the extent of colon tumour during early stages; and lessening the probability of surgery. Some of its disadvantages are – losing accurate idea of surgical arena; delaying curative surgery; and exposing patients (of T1 and T2) to the unnecessary risks of radiation. 

Post-operative Colon Cancer Radiation 

Post-operative radiation refers to radiation therapy that is administered after the surgery. Some of the advantages of post-operative radiation therapy for colon cancer are – facilitating accurate treatment to avoid unnecessary medical action of T1 and T2 tumors; allowing better treatment plan; minimum delaying of operation. Simultaneously, some of the disadvantages of post-operative radiation therapy are – negligible effect on cells’ propagation at the time of operation, making malignant cells less receptive towards radiation; and prolonged wound healing.